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Beyond SWEAT: Developing Infrastructure in Stability and COIN Operations

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Journal article

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The revised FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency, defines a role for restoring essential services as one of five key lines of effort in counterinsurgency COIN operations. By mid-2008, the U.S. Government had spent over 50 billion in the reconstruction of Iraq, the largest relief and reconstruction effort for one country in U.S. history. Since 2004, Congress has authorized 2.64 billion for Afghanistan. This large expenditure of money enabled the completion of infrastructure development projects such as water treatment plants, sewage treatment facilities, electrical grid improvements, and landfills throughout Iraq and Afghanistan in an attempt to restore essential services, build upon security gains, and win the population. Yet, the completion of these projects remains only loosely correlated to a reduction in insurgent activity. This paper offers an explanation for infrastructure developments inability to meet the expectations of its role in counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In many instances, the infrastructure development program in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrates an apparent misunderstanding of the definition of winning hearts and minds and a narrow application of the revised COIN doctrine. Specifically, this infrastructure development program, built on SWEAT analysis and CERP funding, often attempted to win the gratitude of the population, not their allegiance to the elected government. The amount of money spent and projects completed then became the measures of performance, to the exclusion of more appropriate, population-centric measures of effectiveness. The state of infrastructure disrepair can indicate how a local government currently fails to meet the needs and concerns of the local population further, the improvement of infrastructure provides an opportunity to develop the legitimacy of that government. Focusing infrastructure development around smaller, community-based projects could enhance stability and build legitimate governance.

Subject Categories:

  • Civil Engineering
  • Structural Engineering and Building Technology
  • Unconventional Warfare

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